Short Line Connector - Fall 2016 - 12


TRAFFIC REPORT

STATE OF RAIL FREIGHT
TRAFFIC IN FLUX
BY DAVE WHORTON

T

he Bureau of Transportation
Statistics (BTS) reported that the
Transportation Services Index (TSI)
freight traffic index was up for the second
straight month, from 119.7 in March to
121.8 in May. Using 2000 as a base year,
the TSI compared the amount of traffic
moved over time to measure different
economic situations. The latest results continue an overall upward trend that began
at the low point of 94.7 in April 2009 and
reverse a slight downward trend that had
been in place since the start of 2015.
May carloads were up slightly from
an all-time low of 1.012 million in April
to 1.058 million in May, but that figure
is still a drop of almost 18 percent since
December 2014. Total carloads for 2016
are down 13 percent compared to the same
period in 2015.
Intermodal Perspective
Despite a downturn since last summer's
all-time high of 1.2 million intermodal
units moved, intermodal traffic has
been up 43 percent since June 2009
- including 24 percent from the shortterm low of 929,000 in February. This
continues the international trend away
from single-mode and toward multimodal
freight movements. A large source of the
containerized traffic continues to be bigbox stores, as Wal-Mart, Target and Home
Depot remain the top three importers,
according to The Journal of Commerce.
Impact on Short Lines
According to Railinc, carloads for the
year are 1.671 million, a drop of only 0.6
percent compared to the first five months
of 2015. Most major commodity groups
have had periods of fluctuation since the

12

Breakdown of Commodities Shipped by Short Lines

Chemicals
Coal
Farm & Food (Exc. Grain)
Grain
Intermodal
Lumber & Forest Products
Metals & Products
Motor Vehicles & Equip.
Ores
Paper Products
Petroleum & Coke
Stone, Clay, Aggregates
Waste & Scrap Materials
All Other

18.7%
6%
4.6%
11.1%
16.9%
5.1%
7%
2.7%
1.7%
5.7%
3.7%
11.3%
3.6%
2%

Source: RailConnect Index; data through May 28, 2016

start of 2016. Grain has been trending
somewhat downward, as have paper and
paper products, although both experienced
spikes during February. Metal products have
experienced four straight months of growth,
and chemicals also have experienced steady
growth. The most noteworthy drop has been
in coal movements, as they have dropped
four of five months since the year began,
with two of the months showing declines of
more than 30 percent year over year.
The growth in intermodal shipments has
filtered down to the small railroad industry,
as trailers were up over 40 percent the first
two months of the year, although there has
been a slight decline since.
Overall traffic on short lines was down
about 4 percent through May 2016 compared to the previous year, according to
GE Transportation's RailConnect Index of
Short Line Traffic. GE's report is based on
shipment information from 417 railroads.

SHORT LINE CONNECTOR // FALL 2016

GDP Trends
The continued growth of the gross
domestic product is cause for muted
optimism. Despite rising only 1.1
percent in the first quarter of 2016,
the GDP saw its eighth consecutive
quarter of growth. The low growth rate is
nothing new, though, as the trend for the
last few years has been weak performance
in the first quarter followed by stronger
results in the remaining three quarters.
Domestic manufacturers also showed a
profit, making over $450 billion in the
first quarter, a rebound of more than $50
billion over the fourth quarter of 2015,
which was the third-weakest quarter in
the last three years. —
Dave Whorton is the manager of accounting
and data collection at ASLRRA. He can
be reached at dwhorton@ASLRRA.org or
(202) 585-3430.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Short Line Connector - Fall 2016

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Short Line Connector - Fall 2016 - Cover1
Short Line Connector - Fall 2016 - Cover2
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Short Line Connector - Fall 2016 - 2
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Short Line Connector - Fall 2016 - Cover3
Short Line Connector - Fall 2016 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/summer19
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/spring19
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/winter19
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/fall18
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/summer18
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/spring18
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http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/fall17
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/summer17
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/FactsAndFigures
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http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/winter17
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/fall16
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/summer16
http://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ASLRRA/spring2016
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